This paper discusses the rise to prominence of persistence studies, defined as studies that use quantitative causal inference to link past events with later economic and political outcomes. Persistence studies have given us many profound insights and have brought history into the mainstream of social science. We argue, however, that some of the persistence literature has overcorrected for past oversights. We select canonical persistence studies to illustrate some common pitfalls in the literature and discuss potential ways around them. These include the failure to recognize institutional change ("anti-persistence"), vague mechanisms, the insufficient use (or misuse) of historical sources and narratives, the compression of history, and a failure to account for the effects of geography. We suggest that the current enthusiasm for persistence studies risks pushing out other valuable work in economic history and historical political economy.
Journal of Historical Political Economy, Volume 1, Issue 1 Special Issue - Theory and Method in HPE: Articles Overview
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